A Historic Meal

Some of you may know that I sometimes contribute restaurant reviews to a local magazine. Secretly, I go, bringing friends, order food and write about it. The process takes a while, from assignment to deadline to publication. During the course of my last assignment, for a new restaurant, doors were closed and the piece never went to print. Personally, I thought that this was one of my best reviews yet, so I thought I’d still share it with you here. Enjoy this little look at the not so distant past. Channelling Europe in Spokane

Have you ever had a beignet? These pastries are lightly fried, soft and hot on the inside. They start out delicious and finish too soon, leaving you wanting more. I think this sounds like a wonderful namesake for a restaurant. Judie and Ryan Sowards, mother and son co-owners of Beignets, which opened downtown in early July, seem to think so too.

Their idea was to channel the culture of the cafes of Europe without being cliche. The result is a sleek space fronted by bright red awnings and outdoor tables topped with umbrellas, set off by car-free, cobblestoned Wall Street. The interior suggests a dinner party among friends, complete with light, airy space, comfortable chairs and attentive host and waitstaff. While there were several groups of people there each time I went, I never felt it was too loud or that I needed to raise my voice to carry on a conversation with my table.

For breakfast, brunch or lunch, you may find yourself ordering from the extensive crepe menu. Whether you’re in the mood for something sweet or savory, you’ll have options.

The bacon & white cheddar savory crepe was hearty enough for a healthy appetite and filled with pecan wood smoked bacon which resonated with flavor, perfectly cooked mushrooms and onions and moist red potatoes. The whole thing was topped with an egg cooked to your specifications (they recommend over-easy).

The smoked salmon crepe came out a little cooler in temperature, with capers, lemon dill cream cheese, red onion and greens. This dish challenged my ideas of what a crepe could be like, seeming more like a sandwich that just happened to be wrapped in a crepe. It was zesty and fresh, while allowing the salmon flavor to take center stage.

The favorite at my table was the Cevapcici, which uses Croatian sausage made from lamb and beef. The dipping sauces on the side made for two very different experiences. Tzatziki gave the dish a Mediterranean feel, while the ajvar, a Serbian relish popular in the Balkans, provided a flavor which seemed at first Italian, becoming more complex and layered as the tastes of the peppers became more apparent.

Whether you’re planning an indulgent breakfast or a decadent dessert, a sweet crepe is the way to go. These crepes keep it simple, allowing the flavors of the fruit (and in some cases, nutella) to stand on their own.

The blueberry mascarpone crepe is laden with a syrupy blueberry sauce and smothered in orange mascarpone créme. Tendrils of candied citrus peel provide a slightly crunchy garnish which absolutely made the crepe for me.

The strawberry nutella crepe allowed the fresh strawberries to shine, never overwhelming them with the drizzles of nutella and sprinkle of roasted hazelnuts. This crepe, while still substantial, was a little lighter than the blueberry crepe.

If you’re looking for something sweet in addition to beignets or sweet crepes, there are several flavors of house-made gelato on tap daily.

Though the sidewalk sign announces Beignet’s as a creperie, Ryan thinks that the addition of several dinner entrees may become a real draw. While the daytime menu was creative and delightful, I couldn’t get enough of dinner at Beignet’s. For one thing, beignets are complimentary after six pm.

The boeuf bourguignon, made from scratch, (like everything else at Beignet’s) with Julia Child’s recipe, in a process that takes approximately five hours, was a perfect marriage of the flavors of red wine, tender beef and fresh vegetables, garnished with slightly crispy curls of carrot.

It was difficult to pull myself away to try my companion’s Chicken Marsala, but when I did, I didn’t want to give it back. The chicken was succulent without seeming underdone, resting in a marsala wine sauce which didn’t overwhelm, but announced itself all the same. Each flavor was identifiable on it’s own, but fit so harmoniously together that nothing stood out jarringly.

Both dishes came with fresh zucchini (though the vegetable changes seasonally). Personally, I found the seasoning a little heavy-handed, especially in comparison with the perfectly balanced protein portions.

As if all this were not enough, Beignet’s is seeking to take it’s place as a purveyor of craft cocktails. They offer an eclectic menu (including beer and wine) along with a “Choose Your Own Adventure” cocktail at a flat rate for the thrill-seeker or the undecided. You choose a base spirit, they ask a few questions about your drink preferences and the bartender surprises you with a custom creation.

Whether as a unique lunch spot, a leisurely breakfast or a decadent dinner, Beignets is keeping it simple, sweet and satisfying, just like its namesake.